Aretha Franklin’s life and groundbreaking career

Courtesy of Photofest The late Aretha Franklin was renowned for her powerful vocal performances.
Courtesy of Photofest
The late Aretha Franklin was renowned for her powerful vocal performances.

Nicolas Jozefczyk | Staff Writer


Aretha Franklin, with a voice that could move generations, passed away on Aug. 18, 2018 due to pancreatic cancer of the neuroendocrine type.

Dubbed the “Queen of Soul,” Franklin showed off her angelic, powerful vocals and was an unapologetically strong woman who would not back down from her views. She knew life’s imperfections and tore off everyone’s rose-colored glasses.

Franklin captivated anyone with her otherworldly presence. It felt as if her voice was made of something more than vibrating vocal cords. When she sang, Franklin pushed out her emotions in each lyric, adding pure depth and meaning to each word that crossed her lips.

Before becoming the icon everyone came to love, Franklin had humble beginnings. Born in Memphis, Tennessee on March 25, 1942, she was actually raised mostly in Detroit. Franklin started singing in her father’s, Rev. C.L. Franklin’s, New Bethel Baptist Church’s choir.

Breaking out of gospel music and turning to a more secular approach, Franklin signed to Columbia Records in 1960. Even with shifting her genre, she fell short of her accredited title, the “Queen of Soul,” until she switched labels to Atlantic Records. With this pivot, Franklin achieved a remarkable feat and had 10 “Top Ten Hits” from 1967 to 1968. In this small time frame, the song that generations recognize her for was born.

Franklin made her mark when “Respect” was released in 1967. Originally written by Otis Redding, the track had a very different connotation. Redding’s version entails a man pleading for his woman’s respect when he comes home. Franklin switched the script, making “Respect” a woman’s empowerment anthem. She exuded confidence and strength, not asking for respect. Instead, she demanded it.

People noticed Franklin’s stardom, which lead to her selling over 75 million records in her lifetime. She also received many notable acclaims throughout her career. In 1987, she became the first woman to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Franklin won 18 Grammys out of 44 nominations, including The Recording Academy’s Grammy Legend Award in 1991 and the Lifetime Achievement Award in 1994. President George W. Bush awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005. Other accolades include being named Rolling Stone’s Greatest Singer of All Time in a 2010 article and having 77 Hot 100 charting tracks.

Many singers are still influenced by Franklin’s soul and shared their condolences on social media. Kelly Clarkson shared that “Aretha Franklin is the reason why I sing from that part deep inside of me that few could ever reach … There will never be another like her…” P!nk simply tweeted “RIP Aretha” with a broken heart emoji.

Franklin touched more people than just those in her field. President Barack Obama tweeted “Aretha helped define the American experience. In her voice, we could feel our history, all of it and in every shade — our power and our pain, our darkness and our light, our quest for redemption and our hard-won respect. May the Queen of Soul rest in eternal peace.” Zendaya chose straightforward and strong words, stating “Queen Aretha. Rest in Power.”

Throughout decades, Franklin’s strength and soul awakened crowds of all races, genders and classes. She is considered one of the greatest singers of all time, a deserved honor for the Queen of Soul. Though she has passed, Franklin’s music will live on, inspiring an unapologetic nature and igniting passion in generations to come.